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Spain

D.O. and D.O.C.a

The Vinos de Denominación de Origen (D.O.) system was founded to ensure the quality of the wine produced in a specific region. Much of the winemaking process is regulated by the D.O., from irrigation to harvest yield to the amount of oak ageing used. Products labelled Denominación de Origen, apart from being of superior quality, are expected to carry specific characteristics of a geographical region or individual producer and be derived from raw materials originating within the region. For a wine to carry “Rioja D.O.” status, for example, it must meet the standards of the D.O. Rioja and the production area must have been recognised as producing quality wines with a geographical indication for at least the preceding five years. If a region has held D.O. status for at least the previous ten years, producing wine of high quality, following the quality control systems imposed by their regulating body, they may be awarded Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C.a). Rioja was the first region to be awarded this prestigious status in April 1991.

Ageing

Wines produced in D.O and D.O.C.a regions may choose to use these common ageing indicators:

Vino de crianza (Crianza wine): Term used to describe red wines aged (before release into the market) for a minimum of 24 months, of which 6 months are spent in oak casks with a maximum capacity of 330 litres; white and rosé “Crianza” wines must be aged for at least 18 months.

Reserva: Red wines aged for a minimum of 36 months, to include at least 12 months in oak and the rest in the bottle; for white and rosé wines, they must be aged for 18 months, including 6 months on wood.

Gran Reserva: This distinction is given to red wines aged for a minimum of 60 months, to include at least 18 months in oak; white and rosé wines aged for 48 months, to include 6 months on wood.

Quality sparkling wines may use the Premium and Reserva indications; the Gran Reserva indication may be used by those sparkling wines that have been given the Cava designation and which have undergone ageing for at least 30 months from tirage to disgorging.

Rioja

Rioja is one of the smallest regions of Spain, but one of the richest in history, culture and nature. Vines have been growing in the fertile valley of the River Ebro since Roman times. It is located south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro, which creates a natural barrier to help isolate the region from the cold wet winds coming from the north and northwest and the fierce winds that the Cantabrian Sea exerts on the Basque provinces. A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak ageing. The pronounced vanilla flavour in the wines has been a virtual trademark of the region though some modern winemakers have been experimenting with making wines less influenced by oak.

There are three principal regions of Rioja: Rioja Alta, know for its “old world” style of wines, located on the western edge of the region and at higher elevations than the other areas, produces unripe fruit flavours and a wine that is lighter on the palate; Rioja Alavesa produces wines with a fuller body and higher acidity, despite sharing a similar climate to the Alta region; and Rioja Baja which, unlike the more continental climate of the Alta and Alavesa, is strongly influenced by a Mediterranean climate which makes this area the warmest and driest of the Rioja.

Ribera del Duero

Ribera del Duero is located on the northern plateau of the Iberian Peninsula. With a unique climate that is a mixture of continental and Mediterranean, Ribera del Duero sees moderate to low rainfall (450 mm per year), dry summers with temperatures of up to 40°C and long harsh winters with temperatures reaching as low as -­‐18°C. These specific weather conditions greatly influence the viticulture and winemaking processes.

The Ribera del Duero has a very long history of vine growing and winemaking with the first references to winemaking being found in a 2,000-­‐year-­‐old Roman mosaic discovered in Baños de Valdearados in 1972. The customs and the very nature of the local people reflect this long tradition, with winemaking being an essential part of the cultural and economic development of the area.

Famous for its bold reds, Ribera del Duero produces aromatic Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) wines that seduce with their intensity and balance. You can expect a top Ribera del Duero to be very well structured, with good body and powerful fruit flavours that are balanced with none-­‐too-­‐subtle woody notes.

Montsant

Montsant gained D.O. status in 2001, profiting from the experience of the former sub-­‐designation Falset, of the D.O. Tarragona. The human presence and winemaking in this area have always been intrinsically linked to care and respect for the beautiful and rich environment that makes up the D.O. Montsant. Garnatxa (Grenache) and Carinyena (Carignan) are the native grape varieties of Montsant. Geographically, there are a great variety of soils and plantations that includes cliffs, hills and mild bars, which make the wines of this region richer and more varied than in many other small-­‐sized regions.

Priorat

The cultivation of vines in the D.O.Q Priorat started around the year 1162 when the Carthusian monks of the Order of Saint Bruno installed themselves, upon request of Alfonso I the Chaste, in the recently recouped region of Siurana. Thus the villages of this area came under the feudal control of the Prior of the Abbey. Since then the region was known as the Priorat.

Its acknowledgement as D.O. began in 1932, although the Spanish Civil War delayed the appearance of the Governing Council for the D.O. Priorat until 1945. Nowadays, the D.O.Q is spread across 1,700 hectares, located south of the Montsant mountain region in the south of Catalonia. Priorat has its own peculiar geological, geographical and meteorological conditions that combine to produce high quality wines with strong personality, where the terroir is always very present.

Rias Baixas

Rias Baixas is located in Galacia in north-­‐western Spain. The Rias Baixas D.O. was established in 1988 and is Spain’s only exclusively white wine producing D.O. With a lush, cool and damp Atlantic climate, this region is famous for the production of Albariño wines. Albariño is one of the only white Spanish grape varieties produced as a varietal wine on its own. Resistant to fungal diseases, it is a low yielding variety that is expensive to cultivate but highly versatile. It responds well to malolactic fermentation and produces highly complex, aromatic, fresh wine with lots of personality.


Tempranillo

Indigenous to Spain, Tempranillo is a variety of black grape widely grown to make full-­‐bodied red wines. It is the main grape used in regions like Rioja and Ribera del Duero, and is often referred to as Spain's “noble grape”. Also known under different regional names such as Tinta del País, Tinta Fina and Tinto Fino, Tempranillo is the diminutive of the Spanish temprano (“early”), referring to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most Spanish red grapes.

Tempranillo wines can be consumed young, but the most expensive ones are aged for several years in oak barrels. The wines are ruby red in colour with aromas and flavours of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb. A highly versatile wine, Tempranillo can be paired with all kinds of meats, rice, vegetables and, of course, tapas.


Cava

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine of Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status. About 95% of all cava is produced in the Penedès area in Catalonia. The Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel.lo grape varieties are the most popular and traditional used in the production of cava. Only wines produced in the méthode traditionnelle may be labelled “cava”. Those produced by other processes may only be called vinos espumosos (sparkling wines).

The word “cava” comes from the Spanish word for “cave”, relating to the historical ageing of cava in caves. In 1970, the name “cava” was officially adopted by Catalan winemakers to differentiate their product from French Champagne. In the past, cava was referred to as Spanish Champagne, but this is no longer permitted under European Union law, since “Champagne” has Protected Geographical Status (PGS) and Spain entered the EU in 1986.